Everyone knew him simply by his first initial “B,” and as a loyal and helpful friend to the end.
The “B” stood for Benjamin, but more aptly could have been Benevolent. He was named after his great-grandfather. Benjamin Franklin Lyle “B.” Sims was a devotee to community, Christian faith and his alma mater Hendersonville High School. He died at age 92 on St. Patrick’s Day, after several years of poor health yet much goodwill. “B.” befriended and assisted many in the community for decades, while running a neighborhood grocery and as lifelong civic philanthropist.
“He was the most helpful person I know of around here,” said businessman Mark White, the Hendersonville Tribune publisher. White recalled how the “Popcorn Pop” stopped once weekly at the Tribune office and nearly 20 other businesses as well as local First United Methodist Church to give friends a bucket of popcorn and to chat.
B. Sims told The Tribune last decade that “It’s all about friendship,” he said. “Everybody likes popcorn” and associates it with such fun as the circus, movies and sports events. “I’d get so wrapped up in a movie, I’d keep throwin’ the popcorn into my mouth.” He sold popcorn while working in Bluebird’s ice cream parlor in town, as a teen in the late Thirties.
His good deeds went far beyond popcorn. His grown children Gus and Barbara, who missed B. dearly at Easter, are proud of him as a good samaritan. As Barbara once noted, “he’s always helped people. He’s an angel.”
“He gave away thousands of dollars of food” and other merchandise from his B&B Jax Pax grocery which ran extended tabs, The Rev. Dan Martin told The Tribune. “When he closed that shop, he threw away those tabs.” Martin is senior pastor of First United Methodist where Sims’ funeral was, and among his eulogists.
“His help was unconditional,” implementing Apostle Paul’s “gift of hospitality,” Rev. Martin said. “B. Sims didn’t insist that they had to go get a job. He’d help anyway.” Yet he said Sims was optimistic, and “he found hope in each one of us.” He added, “Everything he did was centered around family and church. Seldom do you have such a faithful character, missed by so many people in so many arenas.”
Indeed, Sims warmed people’s tummies with food and their hearts with cheer, puns and encouragement. He often hosted friends at breakfast, and prefaced the meal with “devotions,” Rev. Martin noted. “He loved having people around,” and his friends spanned local social strata. Sims hosted friends for a Christmas meal, and a Fourth of July four-hour pancake breakfast.
Army Air Corps veteran Sims was patriotic. He was a B-17 mechanic in World War II, then worked on C-47 transports for the China-Burma-India air trail to try to foil communist Mao Tse Tung during the Chinese post-WWII civil war.
Sims’ Fruitland rural neighborhood reflected his charm. That area and a corner store there are dubbed “UNO.” Sims marked his 16-acre home and apple orchard with a sign proclaiming “You Know Where (it is).” Which was near North Henderson High School. He lived there starting in 1960. He ended up in Elizabeth House hospice care.
Though Sims’ health had declined for years, he remained upbeat and would say he felt the “best you ever saw,” Rev. Martin added. Sims instead focused more on how the other person was doing.
Sims was a fervent fan of Clemson football, and everything related to Hendersonville High. He started HHS’ Catbackers booster club, and its Hall of Fame. Sims was an all-conference HHS athlete in the late Thirties. After graduating, he found the job market squelched by the lingering Depression. So Sims went back to HHS for added training.
Sims had links to local history in education and law enforcement, through each of his two wives. He was married for 56 years to Bettie Fay Powers Sims, until she died. Her brother Bill Powers served as Hendersonville police chief. Bill and B. were the B&B in Jax Pax. They ran it in 1950-76. Jax Pax sold meat and even gourmet foods.
Sims’ widow, Teal Wilkins Sims, also lost her first spouse who was George Wilkins. Like B. Sims, he was very witty. Wilkins (1924-1998) led Bruce Drysdale Elementary, as its first principal, from 1957-86. He instituted the first kindergarten program in the city, and within Henderson County. His youngest of five offspring, Bobby Wilkins, is current HHS principal. George Wilkins Jr. has long been musical director of Flat Rock Playhouse, starting in that role in 1980.